Neck Pain Exercises-treat your own neck pain by using the best neck exercises and learn which are the worst for your neck.

Neck Pain exercises

Which exercises should you do for a pinched nerve in your neck?

Posted by in Neck Pain exercises |

If you are in pain you probably have been searching frantically for some neck exercises to do to ease you pain. If you have looked far and wide you have probably also noticed that there are a wide range of exercises out there available to you. But which ones to do? Do the wrong ones and you could make yourself considerably worse!

If you have a disc bulge or herniation it will more than likely be a posterior one as the majority are posterior bulges. The majority happen also around about the level of C7. I say the majority and this is nothing more than a brief outline. However, if you were to seek out exercises to lessen your pain and pinched nerve symptoms in your arm I suggest you look at ‘McKenzie Neck exercises’. These will help push the disc in the opposite direction away from the nerve. They should be done at least every two hours and you should see a reduction of symptoms in your arm or hands (depending on where your radiating symptoms happen to be). If the pain/numbness/pins and needles start to subside then that is a green light to continue doing these exercises to remove your pain. If the symptoms are worsened by doing these exercises you should stop them and you could try them again the next day when you neck has settled down a bit(if your neck if very acute). It is however, normal to have some discomfort in your neck when doing these exercises but that is all that it should be; nothing more than that-a bit of discomfort.

The major thing you are looking out for is whether your symptoms in your arm are getting better or worse from your exercises. This is telling you whether the exercises are making your condition better or worse and if the disc bulge is being directed away from the nerve or not.

If your symptoms are getting better doing the retraction exercises you should not do any flexion exercises. Do not do any exercises like bringing your chin to your chest. This will only push your disc further into the wrong direction.

A final note: please don’t listen to your well meaning friends. I had a client last week who had done this and had been doing everything that her friends had been telling her from yoga classes doing backbends to doing head stands. She could not have been doing much else to make her symptoms worse. All of the exercises she was doing pushed her disc in the wrong direction pinching the nerve more by bulging the disc further. She had been in severe pain for 2 months and after I had seen her she was pain free in minutes-after 2 months of suffering!

 

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the stretch you never need to do with neck and shoulder pain

Posted by in Neck Pain exercises |

As you sit reading this I would imagine the majority of you are slouched over your computer with very poor posture, so before we go any further, sit up straight please! In another post I will explain just why bad posture is so damaging for the back and neck and some very simple things to do to help this and help your pain.

One problem with spending so much time slouching over computers, driving with our necks craned forwards etc is that we constantly tighten our muscles around our chest area. This forward shoulder posture is almost endemic in our society these days due to poor posture and having tight pectorals leaves the opposite muscles too long and weakened. These are the muscles at the back of the shoulders and shoulder blades. The more you slouch the further your shoulders move forward and rotate internally. Then your shoulder blades are pulled wider apart around your ribcage and before you know it you are suffering with shoulder pain, rotator cuff problems, impingements, pinched nerves etc and its all easily remedied and totally preventable.

An easy way to check if your shoulders are rotated inwards is to stand up and check your thumbs. Do they points inwards? They should be pointing forwards. The further inwards they point, the more your shoulder is rotated and hence pulled forwards. This is very damaging to the shoulder! You need to do stretches to both stretch your pectorals and strengthen several of the external rotator muscles and scapula stabilisers so that you do not suffer in the future.

Therefore, if you have a postural problem like this (most people do) you should not be doing the stretch where you grab your arm and take it horizontally across your body to stretch the back of your shoulders. This is worsening your problem! You have weak and elongated muscles and tendons already and if you stretch these by pulling your arm in front of your body you exacerbate your problem and worsen your muscular imbalances. This is just one example of stretching the overstretched muscles. I will write about other stretches that worsen your postural imbalances in other articles soon.

If you would like to know more or would like a free assessment of your imbalances feel free to contact me

But for now,

Rest assured I am watching your back

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The ‘I dunno’ exercise for neck pain and upper back tension

Posted by in Neck Pain exercises |


Here’s  a quick and effective little exercise that relieves upper back tension for those tight shoulders  and neck from being at the computer, driving the car or from good old everyday stress.

 

So many of us have tight and painful upper backs and necks and It generally takes years of accumulated bad posture and  physical and mental stresses to get this but the good news is that quite often it can be fixed quickly and easily. One of my clients said to me many years ago that she wears her shoulders as earrings. I didn’t immediately know what she was talking about so she explained to me that all day every day she would find herself so tense her shoulders would not be relaxed and they would creep higher and higher until it felt like they were attached to her ears. I am sure many of you drive your cars like this or work at the computers like this. Your shoulders are not down and relaxed, you continually have to tell yourself to relax them instead of holding them tightly. It gets worse the more stress that you have around you. It you do this for long enough these muscles get painful from hours of contracting them. Imagine if I was to ask you to bend your elbow and flex hard your bicep muscle to contract it hard-as if you were to show me how big your arm muscles were. And imagine if asked you to hold that for one hour in the same position. Well, you probably wouldn’t last for very long and even if you did, your arm would be very sore from contracting it. This is exactly what is happening when you are holding your upper back and shoulders ‘like earrings’. It’s little wonder they are sore at the end of the day!

One of the most difficult things to do is be aware that you are doing this. So many people are so used to it, when I tell them to relax their shoulders they tell me they are relaxed. I try to wiggle their upper back and shoulders and they are locked hard. The client generally is quite surprised because they think that they were completely relaxed. Unfortunately, after years of tensing their upper backs and necks they have literally forgotten how it feels to feel relaxed. This is where this exercise comes in.

The ‘I dunno’ exercise:

 

We need to re program your muscles to start to realise where and what relaxed is again. The ‘I dunno’ exercise will do this for you. I want you to do this several times day especially if you find yourself going back into bad habits by tensing those shoulders. Shrug both shoulders up towards your ears as if you were doing that classic ‘I dunno’ position. Hold for 3 seconds and the gently let them drop back to a relaxed position. Let them relax for 5 seconds. Now push them in the opposite direction towards the floor, the opposite to a shoulder shrug, for 3 seconds. Then relax them in neutral again. Repeat this sequence 5 times of raising, relaxing, pushing down and then relaxing. This will give you a much better understanding of where relaxed is and when you are tensing your muscles. It will also have the advantage of fatiguing these muscles which will make them less reactive to going back to being worn as earrings. The more you do this the more aware you will become and the less pain and tension you will have.

Remember, always have good posture when you are sitting and standing otherwise you will have limited results. As I have said many times before, that it’s imperative to remove the causes to your pain. Bad posture with your head in a forward protracted position is the main cause of neck pain!

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How to Fix a Disc Bulge in your Neck

Posted by in Neck Pain exercises |

How to fix a disc herniation in your neck

 

Here is something you never want to experience. Pain down you arm that doesn’t go away (or at least very minimally in certain positions) and sleepless nights. It is one of the most painful conditions I see in the clinic.

A client came to see me last week; he was on vacations and woke up with pain in his left arm. He had no idea where this had come from. He had not fallen over, strained it in any way or used his shoulder in any other manner than was different from how he uses it normally. In other words, he hadn’t just been painting the ceiling of his 5000 sq. ft. house. What he did know however, is that his pain was now going from his shoulder down into his fingers and it would not stop. He was taking painkillers and anti-inflammatories that weren’t doing a thing. He hadn’t slept for the past 3 nights and he was utterly miserable.

Remember, a nerve generally gets pinched or pressed on by 3 ways:

  1. a large trauma to the neck
  2. an accumulation of micro traumas to the neck
  3. sustained positioning

Let me explain these 3 briefly.

The first one is simple; if you have a large trauma or accident it can cause damage to your neck and herniate your disc.

The second one is from repeatedly putting your head in the forward head position which I have talked about before in ‘why does my neck hurt?’ Eventually after time, the ligament that surrounds your disc loses its integrity from constantly being strained and the disc finally goes back far enough to push on the nerve causing anything from pain, numbness and /or pins and needles in the shoulder and arm. The harder the nerve is pressed on, the further down your arm you will feel your symptoms. In other words, if you have pain only down to your elbow your nerve is not impinged as much as someone who has symptoms down into their fingers. If it is bad enough you can start losing strength to your arm, hand or fingers.  For example, let’s say a person has to constantly look down in their work and rather than keep the chin slightly retracted to do this they continually have their head craned forwards when looking down. This causes the vertebrae to squeeze down on the front of the disc pushing the back of the discs backwards towards the nerves. At the beginning you may just have pain that is there when you do the activity or only lasts for a while afterwards but then like a bolt out of the blue it can come from no where and put you in misery. An easy way to remember correct neck posture is:

if you are sitting or standing and you hang a string from your chin it should fall onto your chest not onto the floor. If it falls onto the floor you head is protracted too far forwards and you are straining your discs and ligaments.  It is a condition that is completely avoidable.

The third condition is where someone is not doing repeated actions but is remaining in the aggravating position for a period of time. This is extremely common for people who sit at a computer (nearly all of us these days). How many of you are reading this with a slouched posture? You should be sitting up straight retaining the small inward curve in your lower back to stop the same thing happening to your discs in your lower back causing sciatica. Also, if your lower back posture is not good (slouching) you can’t possibly get your neck into proper position. So sit up straight. I like to think to myself to sit ‘tall’, if I imagine myself being gently pulled by the top of my head towards the ceiling everything aligns nicely without having to think about curve angles, positioning etc.

So if you retain a poor position like this for long enough the same thing eventually happens to the discs and ligaments as in number 2.

If you have suffered from this condition before you know what I am talking about. I had asked my client if he had been sleeping with more pillows or larger pillows than usual because if you sleep on your back this can push your head into a protracted/chin forwards position which can push on the nerve. He told me this was not the case; he had in fact been sleeping on a very flat pillow. He was a tall man, about 6 foot 3 inches and I explained to him about how this condition can occur. He could think of nothing that could have exacerbated this although he told me that his physiotherapist where he lived had told him his head was too far forwards and he had been working on his posture for this reason. Then suddenly he remembered. He had to drive from Panama City to Boquete in a small rental car for 7 hours in torrential rain. This is what did it. Not only did he have to keep his head forwards to avoid hitting his head against the roof of the car because of his height but also it was extremely difficult to see out of the windshield so he had his neck craned forwards to see better FOR 7 HOURS! I told him for future reference, it is best to bring the car seat forwards so that he can see out of the windshield more easily which will save his neck-and lower the seat.

So now it was time to fix the problem. First of all, now that my client knew what positions and postures would exacerbate his condition he would now be able to avoid them so that the area could heal. It’s a bit like if you cut your elbow, if you keep bending it the cut won’t heal, likewise with his neck he would need to keep a more ‘retracted’ position to allow his neck to heal. The next thing we needed to do is to get him stretching out his pectoral muscles and his trapezius muscles to help him be able to assume this position easily. If they are too tight it is very difficult to do this. Also, we needed to give him the chin retraction exercises to start pushing the disc forwards to get it away from the nerve. I asked him to do these every two hours (6-8 times a day). The less severe his symptoms become in his arm shows us that his nerve is not getting as compressed as much as before until finally his arm pain should be gone when the nerve is no longer affected. Here are the exercises to do.

The stretch you should not do for Neck and Shoulder pain

The Best pillows-What the Studies Say

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Neck and shoulder pain, Your thumbs are a good barometer.

Posted by in Neck Pain Causes, Neck Pain Essentials, Neck Pain exercises |

Here is this week’s tip!

The vast majority of us are too tight across our chest and in the front of our hips. This is because we spend all day sitting in chairs which shortens our hip flexors which can lead to pain sleeping on our backs or stomach and also even from just standing or walking. It’s normally very easy to fix. However, another problem is that we are too tight in our pectoral muscles and the front of our shoulders. This is because we do all of our work with our arms in front of us. We sit at computers bent forward or drive our cars bent forward, hunched over the steering wheel. We eat our meals with our chins pushed forward, shoulders hunched and all of this leads to chronic tightness in the chest and shoulders. Moreover, the upper back muscles become overly stretched and weak. And if that isn’t enough, many of us with our good intentions go to yoga or Pilates and do crunches, roll up into a ball, bring knees to chest etc which further stretches the muscles that are already overly stretched. We worsen our condition. These are all stretches we almost never need to be doing.

So how do you know if your shoulders are rounded and your chest muscles are too tight? Here’s today’s health tip:

  • Stand up with your arms hanging naturally by your sides. Now look down at your hands.
  • Do your thumbs face each other? Guess what, they should be facing forward. What your thumbs are telling you is that your chest muscles are so tight that they are pulling your shoulders forward and turning them inwards.
  • Now pull your shoulders back and your thumbs will begin to rotate towards the front. It is probably a little uncomfortable to do this because your pectoral muscles are restricting you.

So here’s what you need to do:

You need to stretch your pectoral muscles. Here is how to do this correctly:

The Stick Up-the good, the bad and the ugly

The good…

  • Stand in a doorway and place both forearms on either side, elbows at shoulder height( like in a stick-up position)
  • Place one foot in front of the other
  • Keep your chin in and your hip tucked under using your abdominals so that your don’t overarch your back
  • Move your weight forward to feel a stretch through the front of your chest
  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  • Hold for 15 seconds
  • Remember to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

…the bad and the ugly

  • Allowing your shoulders to pinch at the backs
  • Jutting your chin forward
  • Overarching your back rather than tucking the hip under by using your abdominals
  • Hunching your shoulders
  • Forgetting to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy
  • Right after doing the pectoral stretch, drop your arms loosely by your sides and glance down at your thumbs again.
  • If you did the pectoral stretch right, your thumbs should now be facing more forward because you fixed the tightness that rounds shoulders and rotates arms inward.

Remember that once you have done the stretch you will be able to stand straighter and probably feel a bit taller. The key is to do the stretches to allow you to have good posture and its your job to remain in that posture. One of the biggest mistakes we do is do our stretches and then get back to slouching at the computer or walking around with the shoulder hunched forward again. No. Check your thumbs during the day. Check other people’s thumbs! Stretch your pectorals and keep that wonderful posture.

For more on this see my post ‘why does my neck hurt?’

If you would like more information or are unsure of anything above please feel free to contact me:

http://boquetespa.com

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Stretches you should and shouldn’t do for the computer

Posted by in Neck Pain exercises |

Here are the most important stretches you should be doing if you use a computer and the ones you should completely avoid! We all spend way too much time on computers these days so it’s important to know what stretches to do to ease neck tension and back pain. I will teach you what are the essential stretches and proper ergonomics at your work station.

 

Ok, first of all it’s absolutely vital to have proper posture or you can do all the stretching in the world and it won’t make a lick of difference. This is one of the major mistakes many people make.  There are so many people that go to the gym, yoga, Pilates, do stretches, and do hundreds of sit-ups or ball exercises only to find themselves still suffering from back pain. If you are one of these people and want to know more read my article why does my neck hurt to find out why you may still suffer, to understand the causes and know how to fix them.

We all know that we should be taking regular breaks and normally we don’t so obviously trying to do this will be of great benefit not only for your body but also to refresh your mind.

When you are at a computer in a sitting position the hip flexors (the front of your hips) become chronically shortened so it’s a must to stretch these out. If you don’t, not only can you suffer from back pain at your workstation but also it may then hurt when you have to stand for extended periods of time. If these hip flexors are chronically shortened enough it can also be painful for people to sleep on their backs or on their stomachs. Also, we need to address stretching out the neck, back and chest. This is because many people tend to slouch and the pectoral (chest) muscles also become chronically shortened and pull the shoulders forwards. This can then lead to shoulder problems. You may never have thought your shoulder problems could come from having tight chest muscles but it’s very common and very commonly overlooked. And finally we have the neck muscles to stretch. We need to stretch out the trapezius muscles. However, once you have stretched out these muscles its imperative that you go back to your workstation and resume good posture.

You want to do these stretches hour or so. It’s important to be able to take these breaks for body and mind. You don’t want to be doing neck stretches like putting your chin to your chest because these muscles are generally already overstretched from poor posture ( chin jutting forwards-for more on this see ‘why does my neck hurt?’) and also you don’t need to be bringing knees to you chest, touching your toes, curling up into a ball or other stretches like these because they all put too much pressure on your lower discs and don’t stretch the muscles that are tightest-they don’t get to the muscles that need to be stretched! Also, don’t stretch your arm across your body as these stretch the backs of your shoulders which don’t normally need to be stretched because you are already over stretched at the back of the shoulders.

I will explain more about this in another post but for now here are the stretches you need to be doing.

The hips-the good, the bad and the ugly

the good…

  • From a standing position place one foot back behind you in a comfortably wide stance. Make sure you keep the back foot facing forward, do not let it turn out. You may have to look at the back foot to check because it can feel like its straight when its not.
  • Bend your front knee so that your front shin is vertical, this will put your weight through your ankle and protect your knee.
  • Bend both knees a little and allow the back heel to come off the ground.
  • Make sure your hips are facing forwards
  • Ensure that your back is upright and not leaning forwards
  • Your weight should be placed evenly between both feet
  • You MUST tuck your backside underneath you by using your abdominals to lift your beltline up. ( a pelvic tilt)This decreases the arch in your lower back which will then give you a stretch through the front of your back thigh.
  • Hold for 15 seconds and change sides
  • Relax, breathe, smile and enjoy
  • Do this several times per day to stretch out the front hip especially if you are sitting a lot ( who doesn’t these days)

…the bad and the ugly

  • bending the front knee too much which stresses the front knee
  • turning the back foot out
  • arching the lower back
  • leaning the body forwards over the front leg instead of being vertical
  • allowing the front knee to fall inwards, keep your shin vertical
  • forgetting to relax, breathe, smile and enjoy

the chest-the good the bad and the ugly

The good…

  • Stand facing a wall and place your hand on the wall with your elbow about shoulder height
  • Now turn your body and feet away from the wall feeling a stretch through the front of your chest, not the back of the shoulder
  • Make sure your shoulder is relaxed and down
  • Keep your chin in and your hip tucked under so that you don’t overarch your back
  • Hold for 15 seconds and change sides
  • Remember to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

…The bad and the ugly

  • Letting your shoulder pinch at the back rather than feel the stretch at the front
  • Hunching your shoulders up
  • Jutting your head forwards and over arching your lower back
  • Leaning your upper back backwards-(keep back vertical using your abdominals)
  • Forgetting to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

Option 2:

The Stick Up-the good, the bad and the ugly

The good…

  • Stand in a doorway and place both forearms on either side, elbows at shoulder height( like in a stick-up position)
  • Place one foot in front of the other
  • Keep your chin in and your hip tucked under using your abdominals so that your don’t overarch your back
  • Move your weight forward to feel a stretch through the front of your chest
  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  • Hold for 15 seconds
  • Remember to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

…the bad and the ugly

  • Allowing your shoulders to pinch at the backs
  • Jutting your chin forward
  • Overarching your back rather than tucking the hip under by using your abdominals
  • Hunching your shoulders
  • Forgetting to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

Option 3:

Hands behind head-the good, the bad and the ugly

…the good

  • Place your hands behind your head
  • Pull your elbows back to get a stretch through the front of your chest
  • Keep your chin in and your hip tucked under using your abdominals so that your don’t overarch your back
  • Keep your shoulders down and relaxed
  • Hold for 15 seconds
  • Remember to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

…the bad and the ugly

  • Allowing your shoulders to pinch at the backs
  • Jutting your chin forward
  • Overarching your back rather than tucking the hip under by using your abdominals
  • Hunching your shoulders
  • Forgetting to breathe, relax, smile and enjoy

The neck

  • stand upright and put your right hand behind your back trying to touch your left buttock
  • Tilt your head to the left trying to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. keep your head straight( you may want to do this in front to a mirror first to see that you are doing it correctly)
  • slide your left hand down the side of your left leg
  • Do not lean forward or back and don’t let your head come forward.
  • If you want to enhance this stretch, cross your right foot over your left foot and gently push your hips to the right. this will stretch you from your lower back all the way to your neck
  • Remember, with all stretches you only want to feel a gentle stretch not ‘no pain, no gain’. Hold for 20 seconds.
  • Be careful as this is also an exercise in achieving good balance with your legs crossed over.
  • Enjoy!
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